work
play
Killiehuntly Farmhouse, Scotland

A Scandi-Scot hideaway in the middle of a Billionaire’s rewilding project.

I wrote about Killiehuntly for Design Anthology magazine, and stayed on a press rate that, frankly, was the majority of my fee for the piece. Such are the finances of a freelance travel writer.

We were assured the property was dog-friendly and organised a Land Rover pick-up from Kingussie railway station. Our Edinburgh–Inverness train was two hours late. It was clearly inconvenient for one of the housekeepers to pick us up at this much later time, close to the end of dinner service. She eyed Ziggy – “you do know you can’t bring dogs inside the farmhouse”.

Several awkward conversations were had in the car and then in the entrance hall with the ‘house managers’, and it was agreed that Ziggy may enter but just not in the dining room. Fair enough and never mind, we’d missed most of dinner anyway. We were sequestered elsewhere to eat a quick meal before bed.

If I was a paying guest I’d have been slightly pissed off at this point. But I had a job to do for a design magazine, and this is a very fine design destination indeed.

Killiehuntly Farmhouse and its surrounding estate is owned by Denmark’s richest couple, Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen. With more than 200,000 acres of Scottish land in their care, the Povlsens are the largest individual private landholders in the UK. They founded Wildland in 2007 with a 200-year vision to protect and regenerate these estates through rewilding, seed planting and deer management (the latter being somewhat controversial in its intensity). Revenue from the Killiehuntly and Lundies guesthouses, and a number of self catering cottages sprinkled across the Wildland estates, is reinvested into the conservation effort.

A design destination with a purpose, then.

The next morning, it was sunny and rainy. The smell of coffee wafted up the stairs as we descended for breakfast, which is served in the lichen-grey kitchen. Most things presented at the table were Killiehuntly-made: bread, jam, fruit compote, eggs, granola. We were joined by a couple who also pick their hotels by their design credentials. Sometimes the experience falls short, but that hadn’t been the case during their stay here.

Everything did feel a bit friendlier this morning, and I soaked up every detail of the interiors. Anne Povlsen worked with friend and interior designer Ruth Kramer to combine Danish design with Scottish craftsmanship. The aesthetic is serene, unfussy and warm – and miles away from the tartan-swathed pine lodges we associate with traditional Scottish holidays. Hans Wegner chairs are strewn with Highland sheepskins, contemporary Danish artwork hangs above Orkney chairs and the grey-tinged colour palette could have been pulled straight from the Scottish skies. It’s a happy, idiosyncratic combination. There are piles of Arran jumpers in the hall and Danish waterproofs hang in the porch for guests to borrow.

The four bedrooms in the main house are named after trees on the estate: Alder, Birch, Elm and Oak. We stayed in Elm, which has muted blue walls, a bespoke bed made by local carpenters, shaker pegs, a writing desk and a pink Arne Jacobsen 7-series chair. The adjoining bathroom, whilst private to Elm, was not connected directly with the room, so I had to dash across the hall in a towel, bare feet on limed floorboards. It’s a lovely bathroom, though. Tung-and-groove clad with a roll top bath, separate shower and Danish Meraki toiletries. It’s worth noting that Birch and Oak share a bathroom.

Our bed was ridiculously comfortable. Mattresses are handmade in Sweden, and the bedsheets are made from thick Lithuanian linen. There’s no phone, TV nor minibar. Instead, guests are invited to help themselves from the honestly bar in the lounge downstairs and my Harris gin and artisan tonic in a beautiful reeded glass was better than any minibar miniature.

Sandwiches and flapjacks, wrapped in brown paper and string, are left in a basket in the porch for guests to pop in their hiking bag on the way out. We did just that, and walked past fields of Highland cows towards River Tromie for a flat, easy walk with our small, lazy dog. There was a full rainbow over our hooded heads. Perhaps the Povlsens were sitting at either end of it?

The walking is glorious but there’s plenty to do besides: 4×4 tours of the estate, pony picnics, fishing lessons, wild swimming. For those who are more indoorsy, there are books, board games and warm fires to pass the day gently. There’s a sauna yurt and cold plunge pool, and biscuits and tea are served in the kitchen during the afternoon.

A stay here is full-board at the weekend – but it’s worth researching your options for dinner if you stay during the week, especially if you’re travelling without a car. Dinner is served in the dining room at a communal table with other guests, family style. If you don’t like company when you travel then it won’t be for you.

The fixed menu is a farm-to-form style offer, with local meat and fish, and vegetables grown in the kitchen garden.

The garden is informal with native planting, and doubles up as a cutting garden for the whimsical flower arrangements inside. The 360-degree backdrop of Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains adds considerable drama to the outside spaces and seating areas. The nearby Bothy, hayloft and cottage have been converted into self-contained apartments, and I’d probably book one of those next time.

The bottom line

The service was mixed for us. I warmed to the friendly housekeepers, most. I’d return but would hesitate to pay full price. There’s a 3 night minimum stay at £400-500 per night on average.

Kingussie, Highland PH21 1NZ, Scotland
killiehuntly.scot